When twins Dipper and Mabel are dropped off at their Great Uncle Stan’s home, in the town of Gravity Falls, Dipper discovers a book that reveals there is more to the quiet little town than either he or his sister had suspected. What follows is eleven episodes of supernatural adventures, from zombies, sea monsters, psychics, time travelers, and even presidential intrigue.
I would like to point out that while I am easily amused, it takes a lot to really impress me. Especially when dealing with a show produced by Disney Animation. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite cartoons were made by Disney, but anyone with even passing knowledge of the company knows that quality animated TV shows have not been their forté in the past decade or so.
But after the internet buzz surrounding My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I decided that it was worth checking out Gravity Falls. My initial research, prior to watching the show—which mostly consisted of looking up screenshots of the show—was not entirely favorable. Nor was it particularly bad. I am very particular about the art in my animated shows, but shows like Phineas and Ferb have shown me that no matter how much I don’t like the art, sometimes phenomenal writing is all that matters.
With this attitude I went into the first episode of Gravity Falls. And what I found was more than just a gem of a show, what I found was possibly one of the best animated comedies in recent years.
To understand the appeal of Gravity Falls one must first understand what the word “Funny” means. Once the concept of humor is ingrained in the viewer’s mind, they will find Gravity Falls to be a charming and witty show. The writing is absolutely phenomenal, from the excellent sense of humor, to stories that actually have legitimate plot twists. Plot twists that are properly foreshadowed in a way that gives the viewer that “Ooooh, that’s what that meant!” moment. The first episode alone is a perfect example of this.
A lot of the humor is surprisingly biting at times, but never to the point of being hateful. I often describe good comedies as “Like the Simpsons or Family Guy only it doesn’t suck.” And while I initially applied this label to Gravity Falls I’ve since come to amend that statement. What makes Gravity Falls work is that its comedy is not hateful. It doesn’t pull its punches, but it never betrays any kind of bitter sentiment. Personally I consider this to be a higher form of comedy. It’s easy to be funny by being negative, but it’s a lot harder, and a lot more rewarding, to be funny while still keeping an optimistic viewpoint of the world.
Helping the humor to make this show so great, are the characters. Twins Dipper and Mabel are both great lead characters. Dipper is the straight man of the pair, but not in a snide, superior way, rather he’s a regular kid, with all the insecurities of his age. While Mabel is a goof ball who loves being random because she thinks it makes her a lovably quirky character. Both have sincere emotional moments, and both learn the necessary lessons at the end of each episode, but never to the point of denying who they are.
The supporting cast is amazing as well. Grunkle Stan is a great portrait of a lovable con man. He runs the Mystery Shack, where he fleeces the naive, using his kitschy novelty setup. Despite his obvious flaws, he’s a very snide, sarcastic character, who somehow manages to remain likable. Soos, the only fulltime employee, is possibly one of the best characters of the show. He’s at times stupid, while still remaining strangely wise, and always helpful. The other main supporting character, Wendy, works at the Shack part time. Out of the main cast she is the least interesting, and has the least screen time. She’s the object of Dippers affection, and behaves the most like a real person out of the whole cast. Wendy would probably be a more interesting character, if not for the overall tone of the show.
The art, despite my initial opinion, is crisp and clean, and has grown on me over the course of the show. I’m skeptical when it comes to art styles I have not experienced before, so it usually takes some time before I can say whether I like it or not. And for what it is, I really like the art in Gravity Falls. It’s well within the comfort zones of the general public, while at the same time being distinct from other shows to the point where it is easy to determine what show stills are from.
I honestly think that all it takes is the first episode for potential viewers to know whether they will enjoy Gravity Falls. However, it isn’t until episode nine that you will realize exactly how good the writing on this show is. Serious thought and planning went into those first nine episodes, and the following two are equally entertaining. Over the course of watching these first eleven episodes I’ve learned that there are still things that might be hidden in current episodes, that will be revealed in future episodes.
The writing does not speak down to its audience. Rather than explicitly spelling everything out, certain pieces of information are put out there for the viewer, but you have to be paying attention to actually pick up on those bits of information.
I want you to realize that I take my grades very seriously, hence why I don’t like giving them out. When I grade something, I lock that opinion in place. Which is why I do not readily give away certain grades. So please, understand that I mean exactly what I said in my post explaining my grading scale when I give Gravity Falls…